Reviews - What do customers think about The Presbyterian Liturgies: Historical Sketches?
Great Introductory Text on Historic Reformed Liturgy Dec 29, 2006
Baird's book is one of the classics of Reformed liturgical literature from the 19th century. Although surpased by more recent works (Thompson, Liturgies of the Western Church; Old, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship), it remains a valuable introductory survey for those interested in our liturgical heritage and practice. Baird surveys the liturgies of Geneva (following the now-defunct idea that Calvin was the source of all Reformed liturgy), France, Scotland, the Engllish Puritans, the Netherlands, and Heidelberg.
One of the benefits of this volume, besides its narrative style of writing, is that it helps to cure the main problem of liturgy in Reformed churches--we have been led to think we are anti-liturgical, and that only Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, and Wittenburg are liturgical. Baird goes back to the sources (ad fontes) and shows that we have always been a liturgical people, and that high Calvinist liturgy is not an oxymoron. It is only under the influence of Pietism, Puritanism, and Revivalism, that we have left our roots and become Baptist in our liturgics.
Of special note to those in the Dutch Reformed tradition (e.g., Reformed Church in America, Christian Reformed Church, United Reformed Churches, Canadian Reformed Churches, Free Reformed Churches, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Churches), is how Baird traces the daily "Morning and Evening Prayers" to be used in family worship from Geneva, through the Netherlands, into Scotland, and into America. These treasures need to be recovered in our personal and family piety. They can be found, for example, in the Psalter Hymnal (Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Church, 1959), 188-9.
Baird also reflects upon the Dutch Reformed in his day (mid-19th century) and says, "...of all the Calvinistic Churches represented in these United States, the Dutch Reformed denomination [RCA] alone has faithfully retained her ancient forms of worship" (207).
All seminarians, pastors, and laypeople in our churches ought to read Baird. For in so doing, our worship will be strengthened and our witness emboldened.